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Torrential Rain, Sand Storms Hitting Eastern Chad - 2004-07-16

As efforts continue to end the conflict in Darfur, Sudanese refugees who fled the region are facing torrential rains and sandstorms in eastern Chad.

Jennifer Pagonis is a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. From Geneva, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about how the bad weather is affecting humanitarian operations. She says, ?Well, we?re having some very powerful weather in eastern Chad at the moment. There have been torrential rain storms, sand (storms) and strong winds, which have really worsened the problems that these Sudanese refugees are facing. And it?s also hampering our relief effort. Obviously, it?s making getting to refugees much more difficult and they are being flooded out of the wadis (dry river beds) where they had been encamped. These are refugees who are not in camps and we had to bring them into camps, particularly a newly opened camp at Oure Cassoni.?

There are now about 127,000 refugees in nine camps in eastern Chad. In areas being hit hard by the rains, the UN agency is trying to transport as many as a thousand people a day to camps.

The UNHCR has released the initial findings of a nutrition survey done by a number of UN agencies and ngos. It says it ?underscores the need for emergency action to combat high levels of malnutrition among Sudanese refugees in northeastern Chad, particularly under children under five years old.?

High levels of malnutrition have also been found among the local Chadian population, which have opened their homes and shared their food with the refugees.